Conquer Your Fears

Today, many frightening events are happening in our world that can tempt us to feel overwhelmed with fear and worry. Amid this environment, we find that in the entertainment industry apocalyptic stories are incredibly popular. Millions of dollars are made on books and movies with “end of the world” themes – everything from alien invasions to natural catastrophes such as asteroids on a collision course with our planet and earthquakes that bring devastating destruction.

When the Mayan calendar ran out on December 21, 2012, 10 percent of the population believed that something dire was going to happen to the earth. But nothing happened. Lots of people were filled with fear and worry over nothing! Our 24/7 access to technology fuels this fascination with impending disaster. Life hasn’t always been this way, however. Mankind has never had instant access to world events the way we do today.

A hundred years ago, if a disaster happened in Africa or China, for example, weeks would pass before news of the event appeared in newspapers in other parts of the world. In the period from about 250 years ago back to the beginning of time, people rarely heard about disasters and wars outside their local areas. But all of us, including our impressionable children, can see all sorts of tragedies happening in real time – such as the shooting of several police officers in Dallas, Texas – on our cell phones, TVs, or computers.

This instant access to the news gives a new understanding to what Jesus said would happen in the last days of the Tribulation:

“And there shall be signs in the sun,…moon, and…stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;…Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for…those things which are coming on the earth…” Luke 21:25–26.

Fear and worry are now a part of our daily lives. But God does not want us to live in fear – even in these perilous times. The same God who gave each one of us life can also be trusted with the details of our lives.

Topics to worry about are big news – the possible collapse of the economy, Iran getting nuclear weapons, or North Korea building a rocket that actually works and launching a nuclear missile at the United States. If we search online to find what are considered the 10 worst natural disasters in history, information appears about floods that killed millions in China as well as the Black Death of Europe in the 1300s that killed 1 million to 200 million people.

Historians may disagree on which events belong in the top 10 list, but Christians agree that the biggest natural disaster that ever occurred was the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. What is the evidence of a worldwide flood? Flood-caused fossils that have been discovered on the tops of mountains all over the world. Even Mount Everest has clam fossils at its summit. Read more about this at the following website:

www.icr.org/article/did-noahs-flood-cover-himalayan-mountains/

People groups throughout history have created written records describing events that happened during their time on earth; more than 200 worldwide flood legends have been found in ancient writings. In addition to fossils at high elevations, further physical evidence of the worldwide flood is the Grand Canyon, which was carved out by the flood’s spill waters! Evolutionists say that Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado River, but they have a problem: the top of the Grand Canyon is more than 4,000 feet higher than where the Colorado River enters the canyon. That means the river would have had to flow uphill – for millions of years. And the evolutionists mock our faith as not being scientific! To learn more, see these online resources:

www.answersingenesis.org/geology/grand-canyon-facts/startling-evidence-for-noahs-flood/

www.creationtoday.org/grand-canyon-proof/

As Americans, we tend to worry about the wrong things. Back in 2012, some Christians came to me who were worried about the Mayan calendar ending in 2012. Why would anyone today be concerned about the Mayans? The Spanish conquered them 300 years ago. My advice is to stop worrying about the daily news!

Here’s an example of how the news media can direct people to worry about the wrong things. A few years ago, experts said that the number-one threat to the world was the bird flu. But the bird flu has not killed one person in America. In the past 10 years, less than 400 people worldwide have died from bird flu. But the regular flu – the boring kind – kills thousands.

Widespread fear and worry are not just 21st century problems. During His years of ministry on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ often taught on the subject of worry. As recorded in Matthew 6 and other passages in the New Testament, Jesus told us not to worry.

The creator of all human beings, the Lord Jesus Christ, said…

  • Don’t worry about food or clothing (Matthew 6:25)
  • Don’t worry about today’s news (Mark 13:7)

“And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled….”

Note: It is a very good idea, however, to curb young children’s exposure to the news.

  • Don’t worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)
  • Don’t worry about persecution (Matthew 10:28) “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
  • Don’t be worried about dying (John 14:1–3)

Jesus warned that “…the cares [the worries] of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things…” will choke the word of God out of our hearts (see Mark 4:19). Worry can strangle us and take the joy out of life.

What are we so worried about today? Fifteen years ago, a Gallup poll said that the number-one fear of Americans was snakes, followed by public speaking, heights, being closed in a small place, spiders, and getting medical shots. For many years, my top two fears were like those of Moses – snakes and speaking in public.

Chapman University is now conducting annual surveys of the top fears of Americans. See below for a look at how technology has changed our ranking of fears.

The Top 10 Fears of 2015

Fear Fear Domain Afraid or Very Afraid
Corruption of Government Officials Government 58.0%
Cyber-terrorism Technology 44.8%
Corporate Tracking of Personal Information Technology 44.6%
Terrorist Attacks Manmade Disasters 44.4%
Government Tracking of Personal Information Technology 41.4%
Bio-warfare Manmade Disasters 40.9%
Identity Theft Crime 39.6%
Economic Collapse Manmade Disasters 39.2%
Running of out Money in the Future Personal Future 37.4%
Credit Card Fraud Crime 36.9%

If we don’t follow the Bible’s teaching on how to deal with fear and worry, these strong emotions will strangle and choke out joy from our lives. In what other ways does worry affect us? When we worry,…

  • We have unfocused thoughts. (All we can think about is what we fear.)
  • We avoid others. (All we want to do is to be alone.)
  • We don’t get things done. (We can be consumed with fear.)
  • We turn to ungodly behavior. (Because we don’t know how to deal with fear in a healthy way, we turn to unhealthy ways of coping.)
  • We have more health problems. (Fear strains our bodies and nervous systems. We experience stomach trouble, muscle tension, and headaches.)
  • We gradually lose closeness with God because fear erodes our ability to have intimate fellowship with Him. (We may even blame God for causing our trials, and we may view Him as being mean to us or uncaring.)

Now that we are thoroughly convinced that this is a relevant topic for life and faith, let’s follow God’s plan for overcoming fear and worry. I’m confident that every Christian can believe and practice the principles found in the New Testament book of Philippians, chapter 4.

How to Have Victory over Fear and Worry

Let me condense Philippians 4 to one simple phrase:

Worry about nothing; pray about everything!

Say it out loud: Worry about nothing; pray about everything! Write it down, believe it, live it.

God says, “Don’t worry!” In the Bible, the phrase “be careful for nothing” means “don’t be anxious about anything.” But life is filled with worries – at work, home, and school. It’s just natural to worry. But we are not called to live natural lives. Instead, God calls us to live supernatural lives through His power.

What qualifies as a worry? It’s anything that drains our gas tank of joy – something we cannot change, something (or someone) that frightens and torments us, that keeps us awake when we should be asleep. We need to learn how to switch these items from our Worry List to our Prayer List. Through frequent practice, we can learn to give each worry – one by one – to God.

God’s Guidance from Philippians 4

We see in verse 4 of the chapter that we are to rejoice in God’s blessings. We are to worry about nothing, pray about everything, and rejoice!

Worry is wrong thinking, which brings wrong feelings. Can we have wrong feelings? Certainly! Dr. Charles Mayo wrote, “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died of worry.”

When Paul says “Don’t worry, rather rejoice,” he is not advocating living irresponsibly, neglecting our duties, or accepting second best. His message is just the opposite: when we do our jobs and do our part with all of our hearts, we can trust God to do His part in our lives. We must accept the outcome as His will. We may have to do some reaping for some sowing we have done in the past. In fact, today we are reaping what we planted yesterday. But be encouraged! Today we can begin to plant what we will reap tomorrow.

We might feel like Rick Majerus, a basketball coach at the University of Utah who captured a common concern: “Everyone’s worried about the economy this year. Hey, my hairline is in recession, my waistline is in inflation, and my bank account is in depression.”

The Bible encourages us to rejoice, but how can we rejoice when we have so many things to fear?

We can rejoice when we…

  • Take God and His Word much more seriously and ourselves a lot less seriously. Don’t be offended so easily! When we fear God, we will have nothing else to fear. The Bible contains 365 “fear not”s – one for each day.
  • Trust God today and don’t fear tomorrow. We don’t need to fear tomorrow, because God is already there. Someone has pointed out, “It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains.” One fellow, trying to be an encouragement, said to his friend, “Life’s too short for worrying.” His friend answered, “Yes, that’s what worries me.” We have to make an effort to trust the Lord with the future. II Timothy 1:7 reminds us – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
  • Thank God for His gifts. Gratitude is the foundation of joy.

What has God given us? Salvation, eternal life, health, family, church family, America, freedom, His love, joy, peace, and all the promises of God.

Above all, we need to focus on what God has given us, not on what He has not given us. Let’s be thankful for what we have. We also can be thankful for what we don’t have. Think about it. Many of us do not deal with diseases, disabilities, severe trials, etc. It’s true. There is someone who has it worse than we do.

We can learn from the example of others in history who have had it “worse.” Though Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States during very difficult years, he never seemed to worry. He displayed an exuberance in both his public and private life. Once he was asked if he ever worried. He replied by referring to his battle with polio – a battle that had left him crippled. “If you had spent two years in bed trying to wiggle your toe, after that anything would seem easy.”

Here are some facts about the blessings we enjoy:

  • If we have food in the refrigerator, clothes on our backs, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, we are richer than 75% of this world.
  • If we have money in the bank and spare change at home, we are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
  • If we woke up this morning with more health than illness, we are more blessed than the million or so people who will not survive this week.
  • If we have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, we are ahead of 500 million people in the world today.
  • If we can attend church without fear of harassment, arrest, or death, we are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.

To help counteract feelings of fear and worry, it’s important to take time to laugh. God has a sense of humor. Just go to the zoo and look at all the different kinds of animals He made. Better yet, go to the mall and sit on a bench and look at all the different kinds of people He made.

Laughter is a God-given emotion, and it has many benefits. In Proverbs 17:22 we read, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

It’s good for us to have fun with family and friends. We should enjoy good fun, clean fun! Share funny stories with each other! A spirit of cheer spreads rapidly. Choose joy; choose to “Rejoice!” Paul says, “Again I say rejoice!”

In verse 5 of Philippians chapter 4, we are encouraged to relax in God’s peace. We are to worry about nothing, pray about everything, and relax!

Verse 5 speaks of “moderation,” which means gentleness and being patient or easygoing. It refers to a sweet reasonableness and carries the idea of being relaxed. Learning to get along with others is one of the most important qualities that a boss is looking for in an employee. And God is looking for that quality in His children as well.

Worrying will make us sick or at least make us feel sick. The Harvard Business Review reported that 60% to 90% of medical office visits involve people who see the doctor because of stress-related symptoms.

We need to relax and lighten up. Studies show that 90% of what we get nervous and jumpy about never happens.

We are to rejoice, relax, and…
Rest! Verses 6–7 of Philippians chapter 4 advocate resting in God’s promises. We are to worry about nothing, pray about everything, and rest!

Why should we worry when we can pray?

Here are three words that describe different ways we are to communicate with God:

1) Prayer – a general word for prayer, worship, and praise.

2) Supplication – a term that means asking with a deep desire and fervency; we are beseeching God to hear us.

3) Requests – this is also asking, but doing so with specific details.

All of this – prayer, supplication, and requests – is to be done with a spirit of thanksgiving.

Our Heavenly Father enjoys hearing His children say “Thank you.” When Jesus healed 10 lepers, only one returned to thank Him. Only one was praised by our Lord for giving thanks. When we take the time to say, “God, I want to thank you for a new day, my family, my church, my job,” it helps us to get our minds off our problems and focus on God. We can be assured that this is better than yoga. Say “No” to yoga and “Yes” to prayer! Remember, when we worry, it’s because we believe more in our problems than in God’s promises.

In Philippians 4:7 we have a promise attached to prayer. The verse says that “…the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” What happens when we pray as described in verse 6? God’s peace is like a soldier that stands guard marching around our minds and emotions. As we transfer our troubles to God, He calms us with a perfect peace – a heavenly, divine peace. Words cannot describe how wonderful this is!

This is not something we do just once or twice a year. This is something we do dozens of times a day. We give our cares and concerns to God. I can’t tell you how many times I have become tense, uptight, and overwhelmed by things out of my control, and when I turn each situation over to God, He replaces the anxiety with a quietness of my spirit, a calming of my mind.

We are to rejoice, relax, rest, and…
Remember! Meditate on God’s Word. Philippians 4:8 lists the subjects that God wants us to think about. These items (things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy) cancel out about 90% of what’s broadcast on television – day and night. I’m not going to sit down and watch a movie called “Snakes on a Plane.” That’s not going to edify my soul and calm my spirit!

For years, my family and I have used a clearplay DVD player, and now we use vidangel.com. It cuts out the dirt from the programs we choose to watch!

Right thinking leads to right decisions and right living. Here are three actions to take to help keep right thoughts in our minds:

  1. Memorize the Bible verse of the month (see the church bulletin) or choose a favorite verse to work on learning.
  2. Look for one truth in God’s Word every day.
  3. Share that one truth with someone else – a family member or friend (via a short email – not a sermon – a thought for the day).

We are to rejoice, relax, rest, remember, and…
Respond! Simply obey God’s commands (see Philippians 4:9). Why are many saints enamored with the academic and intellectual side of Christianity and Bible study? They substitute knowledge and learning for obedience. The apostle Paul says to the young pastor Timothy in the New Testament, “Do it. You know what I taught you, now do it!” Too many saints (every saved person is a saint, according to the Bible) are educated way beyond their level of obedience.

Christians were asked, “What is your greatest hindrance to witnessing?”

9% said they were too busy.

28% said they didn’t know what to say.

12% said they were not right with God.

51% said they feared how the other person would react!

Now let’s think this through logically. If I share my faith and I plant a seed that leads a person to Christ, I get a reward in heaven, right? It’s called “The Crown of Rejoicing” (see I Thessalonians 2:19).

But if I share my faith and I get a negative reaction, what do I get? Good question. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 5: 11–12: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven….”

What do I get for sharing my faith with others? I get to rejoice now and I receive a reward later.

Sharing our faith is the ultimate Win/Win scenario! Whether the reaction is positive or negative, God says, “I will reward you in heaven!”

I’ve noticed that the folks who believe Satan’s lies are extremely vocal. It’s time for us who believe the truth to begin speaking up as well!

Here is a summary of the apostle Paul’s plan for believers to overcome fear and worry, as described in Philippians chapter 4.

We are to:

  • Worry about nothing and pray about everything. How?
  • Rejoice in God’s Blessings, verse 4
  • Relax in God’s Peace, verse 5
  • Rest in God’s Promises, verses 6–7
  • Remember to Meditate on God’s Word, verse 8
  • Respond with Obedience to God’s Commands, verse 9

When we do, God takes over and gives perfect peace. It’s called the peace of God.

If you are not yet a Christian, you can experience peace with God when you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. And the peace of God comes as you continue to trust Christ (without fear) moment by moment throughout your life.

 

Scott Wendal
Senior Pastor | Valley Forge Baptist

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